Winter – with its grey days and long nights – can leave the whole family yearning for comfort food when dinnertime rolls around. The problem? It’s also the time of year when we need healthy options more than ever.
We know it’s hard creating a healthy dinner when you’ve had a busy week at work, your kids suddenly announce their friends are coming over to play or the fridge is empty.
So, to make life easier, here are seven easy-to-create, tasty, comfort-food ideas that use just a few ingredients, but still pack a healthy punch:
1. Store cupboard tuna pasta
EAT WHEN… THE FRIDGE IS EMPTY
Most of the ingredients for this easy pasta dish come from a packet, tin or jar, which means you can keep them stocked in the house and whip this up when your fresh food options are limited.
- Cook 80g dried wholegrain pasta per person (which is more filling thanks to higher fibre levels), then drain it.
- Add in a tin of chopped tomatoes and sundried tomatoes from a jar, along with the contents of a tin of tuna. Mix together with several tablespoons of pesto (again from a jar). If you have them, add some chopped fresh spring onions, too.
- Stir well, then serve with grated cheese on top.
2. Roasted sausage tray bake
EAT WHEN… YOU HAVE FRIENDS ROUND FOR SUPPER
Quick-to-prepare, this is a brilliant, warming dish for sharing.
- Chop up two sausages per person (depending on your tastes and dietary preferences, pork, turkey, chicken or vegetarian sausages all work well).
- Add the sausages to a bowl with two or three different types of chopped vegetables – enough for all your guests. Pick a combination of onions, peppers, mushrooms, par-boiled potatoes, courgette, carrots, parsnips or chopped butternut squash. You can even use frozen veggies here – many of which have been shown to have higher levels of nutrients than fresh from the shop.
- Mix in 1-2tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, then toss gently until everything is coated in oil.
- Arrange on a baking tray and roast at 200°C/400°F for about 30min.
3. Super-fast stir-fry
EAT WHEN… YOU’RE HAVING A BUSY WEEK
This simple dish serves two for a cosy night in – simply double it for a family of four.
- Crush a clove of garlic and fry it in olive oil. Then add several handfuls of chopped broccoli florets and stir fry them for a few minutes until tender.
- At the same time, cook two portions of dried egg noodles in boiling water, according to the packet instructions.
- Beat two eggs together and cook them in a separate pan, stirring constantly until the eggs are scrambled.
- Add 2tbsp soy sauce and 1tbsp sesame oil to the broccoli pan. Then stir in the eggs and drained noodles.
- If you want to, you can add a handful of spring onions, peanuts or a pinch of chili flakes on top. You can also add stir-fried chicken or tofu pieces for an even heartier meal.
4. Simple vegetable soup
EAT WHEN… IT’S COLD AND WET OUTSIDE
A hearty, warming, good-for-immunity soup for those cold winter evenings.
- Chop up around 200g onions, celery and carrots and fry them in oil with 300g of peeled, cubed potatoes until the mixture is soft.
- Pour over 800ml vegetable or chicken stock (made using a stock cube) and simmer for 10-15min.
- Transfer the whole mixture to a blender, add seasoning, and blitz until the soup is smooth.
- Serve with a swirl of cream or sour cream, and a chunky slice of bread.
- Made too much? Freeze portions of soup and you can reheat them at a later date.
5. DIY tacos
EAT WHEN… YOU WANT TO MAKE MEALTIME FUN
The ultimate in DIY dinners, tacos are fun for the whole family and perfect if your children suddenly have friends round.
- Lay the table with bowls full of toppings – whatever your family prefers. Try pan-fried minced beef, chopped chicken or turkey, grated cheese, shredded lettuce, guacamole, salsa, black beans, olives, sliced peppers, chopped fresh tomatoes and sour cream.
- Give everyone a crispy taco shell and see who can create the most exciting filling combination!
6. Easy lemon salmon parcels
EAT WHEN… YOU HAVE GUESTS DUE IN MINUTES
This no-fuss salmon dish looks and tastes amazing, but takes just seconds to prepare.
- Take one piece of salmon fillet per guest and lay it, skin-side down, on a rectangle of aluminum foil.
- Cut a lemon in half. Squeeze the juice of one half over the salmon; cut the other half into slices and arrange them on top of the fish.
- Fold up the edges of the foil around the salmon to make a ‘parcel’, then cook for 180°C/350°F for about half an hour.
- Take out of the foil and serve with boiled baby new potatoes, or make your own sweet potato fries by chopping up some sweet potatoes, tossing them in oil, and roasting for 25 minutes at the same time as the salmon.
7. Homemade pizza
EAT WHEN… THE KIDS NEED ENTERTAINING
This surprisingly healthy meal will keep kids occupied while making them feel like ‘real’ chefs.
- Make a yeast-free pizza base by mixing 300g plain flour, 2¾tsp baking powder and 1tsp salt. Then add 1tbsp vegetable oil and 170ml water, stirring and adding more water if needed until the mixture makes a soft (but not sticky) ball.
- Knead the dough on a floured surface for about four minutes, then roll it out into a circle.
- Let the kids make their own toppings. Spread tomato puree or sauce over the base, then add cheese, mushrooms, peppers, ham… whatever they fancy!
- Cook at 200°C/400°F for 15-20min.
- Get the kids to help tidy up afterwards, too. Run them a bowl of water with a squirt of Fairy Liquid. It cuts through grease easily, so even if they’re not experts at washing-up, your dishes will still end up sparkling.
What do you recommend cooking to keep the family happy all winter long? Comment below with your ideas.